Sam Kennedy WARBURTON
Wales Caps: 38 (18-0-20)
Wales Points: 10 (2t)
Wales Debut: v USA (rep) 2009
British & Irish Lions: First Tour
Lions Debut: 08/06/2013 v Queensland Reds
Test Record v Australia: 7 (0-0-7)
Sam Warburton led Wales to the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-finals and on to an RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam in 2012. He becomes only the fourth Welsh player to lead the British & Irish Lions on tour – Arthur Harding in 1908, John Dawes in 1971 and Phil Bennett in 1977 – and he will become the fifth youngest of the 28 Lions tour captains stretching back to Rob Seddon on the pioneering tour of 1888. He will be 24 yrs, 244 days old on the day of the opening tour match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong. The only other captains to have been younger on the date of the first game on their tours have been: 1950: Karl Mullen (Ireland) 23 yrs, 165 days; 1904: David Bedell-Sivright (Scotland) 23 yrs, 193 days; 1955: Robin Thompson (Ireland) 24 yrs, 48 days; 1924: Ron Cove-Smith (England) 24 yrs, 229 days.
He is regarded as one of the world’s finest flankers and stormed back to his best form with his performances in the 2013 RBS 6 Nations campaign. He was named man-of-the-match against Scotland and followed it up with another destructive display against England as Wales successfully defended their title.
Warburton learned his rugby at Whitchurch High School, where he was in the same class as Tottenham Hotspur and Wales star Gareth Bale, and also played at Rhiwbina RFC. He enjoyed a brief spell with Glamorgan Wanderers before switching to Cardiff RFC and the Cardiff Blues academy.
A No 8 in the Welsh age-grade teams, the versatile back-row forward has won caps at U18, 19 and 20s levels. In 2007, he led Wales into the IRB U19 World Cup in Belfast, where they lost 25-21 to Australia in the third-place Play-Off game, and a year later captained Wales at the inaugural IRB World Junior Championships on home soil.
He served as understudy to three times Lions tourist Martyn Williams in his early years at the Blues and made his regional debut against Edinburgh in 2009. He then caught the eye of the Welsh selectors with a string of impressive performances and made his Test debut on the summer tour against USA in 2009.
He was named in Wales’ 2010 RBS 6 Nations squad, but had to wait until the following season to get his first taste of championship action. In June, 2011, he became Wales’ second youngest captain, after Lions legend Gareth Edwards, when he led his country against the Barbarians. He hung on to the captain’s armband for the Rugby World Cup, after Matthew Rees was ruled out, and took Wales to the last four.
He led Wales out of their Pool, past Ireland in the quarter-finals and into a semi-final clash with France. In the 18th minute he was infamously sent-off for a tip-tackle on Vincent Clerc and Wales missed out on a place in the final as they lost 9-8.
Warburton retained the captaincy on his return home and, after leading Wales to the Grand Slam last year, he was in charge for the three games against the Wallabies on the summer tour. He relinquished the honour during the 2013 tournament, with Ryan Jones and Gethin Jenkins picking up the arm-band. He has led his country to eight wins in 20 Tests to date.